Grand Theatre

26 N. Sixth Street,
Keokuk, IA 52632

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Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 28, 2013 at 4:31 am

The February 26, 1921, issue of The American Contractor has a notice that a $35,000 house was to be built at Keokuk for M. F. Baker. This was probably Merle F. Baker. It was being designed by the Chicago firm of Tallmadge & Watson. I would expect that, if Baker had been an architect, he’d have designed his own house. It seems more likely than ever that Baker was merely the co-owner of the Grand Theatre, not its architect.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 27, 2013 at 7:24 pm

The photo currently on display on this page depicts the original Keokuk Opera House which was destroyed by a fire in 1923 and replaced by the Grand Theatre. The photos section has an image of the 1925 Grand Theatre, posted by Don Lewis, which would be a better choice to display on this page.

Although a couple of travel-oriented web sites and any number of link farms (and Wikipedia, not surprisingly) say that Mere F. Baker designed the Grand Theatre, this page at the Grand’s official web site says only that “[i]n a matter of a few days after the destruction Merle F. Baker, a leading businessman in Keokuk, was determined to rebuild the Grand Theatre as a community theatre continuing with vaudeville stage shows.” I’ve found no evidence anywhere else on the Internet that Baker was an architect. He was actually the Baker of Baker-Dodge Theatres, the company that operated the Grand and a number of other Keokuk movie houses.

This house actually opened as the New Grand Theatre. Baker-Dodge had been operating the old Keokuk Opera House under the name Grand Theatre at the time it was destroyed. Although I’ve been unable to discover the architect of the New Grand, the Keokuk Opera House was designed by Chicago theater architect Oscar Cobb prior to 1885.

IowaBackroads on August 31, 2010 at 11:16 pm

The Grand Theatre was featured as the Iowa Backroads Photo of the Day in August 2010; the photo was taken June 20, 2009.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on February 6, 2009 at 12:16 pm

It must be a relatively new website or we would have included it when we added this theater. Big difference in the seat count between now and when it was a movie theater.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on February 6, 2009 at 10:52 am

This is the website for the Grand Theater.

Seating Capacity, main floor…………….336 + 8 handicap seating = 344
Seating Capacity, balcony…………………. 420 + 16 side boxes = 436
Total Theatre Seating Capacity…………780

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on August 21, 2008 at 7:10 pm

Here is another photo of the Grand.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on August 29, 2007 at 5:51 pm

A Kilgen theater organ opus 3344 size 2/5 was installed in a New Grand Theater in 1924. Same theater as this one?

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on July 31, 2007 at 1:13 pm

This website claims the architect was Merle F. Baker.

kencmcintyre on February 9, 2007 at 7:06 pm

The Grand was robbed in 1971, which apparently was big news in Keokuk

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on January 8, 2007 at 8:27 am

This website has a color photo of the Grand Theater. Its near the bottom of the page.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on January 8, 2007 at 6:24 am

Here is a recent b/w photo of the Grand Theater.